Open-Air Options

Defy the dog days of summer on one of these charming--or just cheap--patios

Admittedly, this hasn't been the best summer for outdoor wining and dining. Yet despite first the constant downpours and then the heat wave, there's something that draws crowds out onto Twin Cities patios like packs of beached seals. Maybe smokers and nonsmokers can finally coexist in harmony. Maybe it just seems criminal to sit inside after a long day at the office. Maybe once you've knocked back a couple of drinks, A/C deprivation really isn't all that bad. Any or all of these factors may help explain why there are so many great outdoor bars and pubs in and around the Twin Cities. Who hasn't whiled away a few dog days at Brit's Pub, Café Lurcat, or W.A. Frost?

Well, we're here to suggest that there are plenty of equally worthy, if less well-known, choices. Smaller places people can walk to from the office or their homes. What follows is a roundup not of all of the great outdoor bars out there, but some of the too-often-overlooked, but still popular, heroes of the outdoor cocktails and dining world.

 

Not quite Polynesia, but close enough: Happy hour at Psycho Suzi's
Kathy Easthagen
Not quite Polynesia, but close enough: Happy hour at Psycho Suzi's

Location Info

Map

Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge

1900 Marshall St. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Northeast Minneapolis

The Liffey

175 W. 7th St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Sweeney's Saloon and Cafe

96 N. Dale St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Billy's On Grand

857 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Macalester/Groveland

PSYCHO SUZI'S MOTOR LOUNGE
The website for Psycho Suzi's states that the patio is open year-round, and while I doubt that anyone actually dines out there when the thermometer hits -10 degrees, the hordes of people that cram themselves onto the terrace during the summer months are surely a testament to its awesomeness. Part tiki bar, part refurbished A&W stand, Pyscho Suzi's is quite possibly the ultimate place to get your trashy freak on; it's as if a restaurant in an amusement park was transported to Nordeast and somehow became a neighborhood bar. Step outside onto the multilevel patio that is part wooden deck, part concrete, and part grass and pick a seat (wicker or plastic) under a straw-covered umbrella. Pick and choose from the pizza, deli, and State Fair-inspired menu (complete with State Fair-inspired prices, but thankfully bigger portions).

Truly, any place that strives to serve people a variety of beer-battered items (cheese curds, onion rings, mini-wieners), deviled eggs, and fries (which have entered a 50/50 contract with the cheese they are topped with), is certainly admirable. Even more admirable is the fact that you can order these items until 2:00 a.m. throughout the week.

A pink neon sign over the bar proclaims the location the "Mender of Broken Dreams." While drinking probably won't fix your woes, it's at least a pleasant Band-Aid. From the cocktail list comes a variety of strong rum-based froufrou drinks with kitschy names like Tropical Eruption and Walking Dead, all served up in clay glasses shaped like coconuts, skulls, and one-eyed pirates. Pay a little extra and you can keep the mug for your collection.

Also, while I at first thought that the view was a bit lacking (from most seats you can either stare at a tall wooden fence or the parking lot), upon further contemplation I decided that it's probably best that I couldn't see the liquor store or the vaguely factory-looking structures that surround the place. Thanks, Psycho Suzi's! PSYCHO SUZI'S MOTOR LOUNGE ; 2519 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis; 612.788.9069 ; www.psychosuzis.com

 

THE LIFFEY
The main restaurant of the Liffey is located on the first floor of the Holiday Inn at downtown St. Paul's Seven Corners junction. From the outside, it appears as though the hotel is growing a tumor in the shape of an old-fashioned railcar diner. On the inside is a classic Irish bar, complete with dark woodwork and brass railing. Thanks to recent additions to the hotel, there's a new outdoor terrace and parking ramp. Located on the second level of the building, the multilevel patio area is quite spacious--although the sturdy glass tables and large cloth umbrellas are situated for maximum seating capacity, much like at the Xcel Energy Center across the street. The view is exceptional, especially at night when strings of lights and a translucent white awning on the building's side are lit, with the St. Paul Cathedral glowing in the distance. But really the view is great any time of the day, with some spots especially primo for bird's-eye people-watching.

As for what to drink at the Liffey--you're sort of missing the point if you order anything other than a nice Scotch or a beer on tap. I recommend a Black and Tan--like the mullet, it's the best of both worlds--chocolaty, filling Guinness on top; light, refreshing Bass Ale or Harp (depending on the bar or your request) on the bottom. Tasty menu items include classic Irish pub fare--bangers and mash, fish and chips, lamb stew, shepherd's pie--as well as light salads. Appetizers such as fries with curry dip, breaded olives, and mini-burgers with fried onions are great for sharing and are served up for $4.99 from 2:00 p.m. until midnight, Monday through Friday. Happy hour specials include discounts on some drinks from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. THE LIFFEY; 175 West Seventh St., St. Paul; 651.556.1416; www.theliffey.com

 

SWEENEY'S SALOON AND CAFÉ
Located in a residential neighborhood of St. Paul, Sweeney's Saloon and Café manages to utilize every inch of space it has. Which is to say that if it's a crowded night, you might risk feeling cramped if you are the claustrophobic type. But frankly, after that first drink is in your system you're probably not going to notice, and may even benefit from the close proximity shared with friendly neighboring tables if you're on the prowl. Furthermore, the boxlike nature of the patio is conducive to trapping cool summer breezes. If you want a natural view, you can always gaze up at the stars through the strings of white lights that make up the patio "roof."

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